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The Power of Hate

November 8, 2004

(archived broadcast )
Never underestimate the power of religiously-inspired hate
Whether in the Middle East or in Middle America……
by Mark Levine .
Article web-published here.

I’ve read a number of thoughtful essays over the last few days on the red-state, blue-state divide: some sad, some angry, some funny, some ennobling.
The first comment I wrote was published on
Never underestimate the power of religiously-inspired hate
Whether in the Middle East or in Middle America……
by Mark Levine
Many have reacted with surprise that millions of Ohio voters who have been so impoverished by the Bush Presidency would vote to elect Bush based on “moral values,” having been led to the polls by the most extreme anti-gay initiative in American history. Ohio’s Issue 1, on the same ballot as the Presidential race, passed last Tuesday. The new law not only reiterates current Ohio law that gay people cannot marry each other: it goes farther to deny Ohioans the right to have private contracts with each other, if such contracts provide gay couples health care or other job benefits. Gay couples will no longer be allowed to will each other property, visit each other in hospitals, provide for their children, or have any other legal rights or contracts that would “approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.” Their parental rights are hereby nullified. And in Ohio (and most other states), any employer may fire gay people solely on the basis of homophobic animus.
What is the source of this overwhelming hate of Ohioans (and voters in 10 other states) for their fellow man?
History teaches that as poor people become more impoverished and see no way out of their condition, they rarely attack the powerful people in control. Revolutions are tough to win. Instead they retreat to religion and find a scapegoat who is easier to attack, often aided in this task by the very people oppressing them.
In the Middle Ages, European peasants mistreated by nobles rose up against Jews hired by the nobles to collect the peasants’ taxes. In the Confederacy, poor non-slave-owning whites fought a war to allow rich plantation owners to keep their slaves while these same slaveholders bought their way out of military service. In Weimar Germany, poor people ruined by massive inflation and the imposition of the punitive Versailles Treaty rose up against the Jews before they later turned against France and England. And in the Middle East today, poor Arabs mistreated by their rulers have also turned against their Jews first, then Israel, and only later Americans (the latter, at least, having some rational basis, since the American Government has supported their ruling dictators).
In the USA, ignorant people who see no way out of poverty are increasingly turning to religious demagogues: for example, some Blacks follow the Nation of Islam, hating Whites and Jews. But many White (and Black) born-again fundamentalist Christians now focus on a new enemy: homosexuals — the devil in their midst (found even in their own families).
German bigots in the 1930’s insisted their Jew-hatred was caused by the actions of the Jews themselves who demanded equality in the 1800’s Enlightenment. How dare the Jews seek equal rights to participate in Germany society and try to enter professions reserved for Germans!
American bigots in the 1960’s insisted their racism was caused by the actions of Blacks themselves (and outside agitators). How dare Blacks seek equal rights to vote and go to public places! They have access to their own decrepit buses and movie theaters and schools. Why do they have to be in our buses and movie theaters and schools?
Today homophobic bigots insist their anti-gay animus is caused by the actions of gay people themselves. How dare gay people seek equal rights to marry, raise children, have equal access to jobs and health care, and have a private life free from arrest by the state! Don’t they realize that God hates them? Don’t they realize God demands they be second-class American citizens?
Perhaps John Kerry should have taken Bill Clinton’s advice to openly support the 11 anti-gay state initiatives. It is virtually certain that if Kerry had followed Clinton’s Machiavellian advice, Kerry would have been elected President. It wouldn’t have been so hard for Kerry — who is on record opposing gay marriage — to support these initiatives. The problem was, as Kerry knew, these initiatives did far more than ban marriage: they legally consigned gay couples to permanent second-class citizenship and are quite literally a violation of the Constitution’s assurance to Americans of “equal protection under the laws.” All Kerry had to do was abandon his values and his belief in equal rights for the gay community to get elected: a relatively minor flip-flop that few straight Americans would have noticed.
(A side note. Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Clinton is anti-gay in the least. I do not believe Clinton wanted to approve the Defense of Marriage Act or the Republican plan to fire openly gay citizens serving in the military. But Clinton signed these laws because he had a keen eye for American politics. Clinton knew that you cannot hold a nationally-elected office in America without some limited amount of gay bashing.)
Is it to John Kerry’s credit that he stood firm against Clinton’s advice? Should Kerry have pretended to sacrifice his moral values in “liberty and justice for all” in order to be President? Maybe so. Maybe opposing equal rights for gay people is the only way to get elected in red-state America today. Just as opposing equal rights for Blacks was necessary to be elected in the South. President Lyndon Johnson said, when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that he was losing the South for Democrats for generations to come. Johnson was right. And so was Clinton.
And so was Kerry.
Mark Levine

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  • RiKAtomika November 8, 2004 4:58 pm

    While perhaps the Democratic party has come slightly more right it is by no means Right-wing organization. It simply moved more to the center which was more in line with it’s members. Clinton understood that to accomplish his goals that compromise was necessary. While gobalization didn’t turn out the way we would’ve liked, great strides(now undone by Bush) in liberal issues such as the enviroment and welfare. People who don’t know don’t compromise are destined to fail, nothing makes them happy.
    Democrats hae to start winning the battles that put them in a better postion to win the war. We might have to stretch a little here and there but when we have the upperhand we can begin to dictate the enemy’s surrender. We can’t say we want it all now or nothing at all. I do not suggest that we back away from our values or platforms, but on some issues, maintain the status quo until such time it is feasable. Good tactians know that timing is crucial.
    Groups that are to far left may cause more damage to thier cause than good. Groups such as PITA and Green Peace, while nobel, do more to alienate the majority of main stream liberals. Their activities cause people to not to take thier message seriously because people consider them wackos.
    This is why the democrats need to state a platform that digestible to the average American.
    Things like:
    Clean envrioment
    Energy independence
    Good Jobs and prosperity
    Stong homeland defense
    Fiscal responsibility
    Equal rights for all Americans.
    Education for all Americans.
    Health care for all Americans.